Scotland’s independence vote is a remote prospect for Australia but it could have implications for the flag, the dollar and the price scotch whisky.
It’s a long way away and supposedly none of our business but if Scotland votes “Yes” and splits from the United Kingdom, the result could be cheaper scotch and a new Australian flag.
A late surge in the Yes vote in polls before Thursday’s referendum on Scottish independence has suddenly made the world sit up and pay attention.
While banks and businesses are worried about an independent Scotland being cut out of the British pound and taking on a crippling national debt, analysts are also considering the fate of the Union Jack.
Losing Scotland’s St Andrew’s Cross would leave the Union Jack without its blue background and diagonal white stripes.
It could also result in a rethink of Australia’s flag and the Union Jack’s place on it.
Flags Australia secretary Tony Burton said one response would be a new flag, but given Australia’s fraught and long-running flag debate, the answer would not be simple.
Despite thousands of possible suggestions over the years, featuring kangaroos, the Southern Cross and green and gold, there is plenty of affection for the current flag.
“It could be argued that what we see in the corner is the flag that has promoted Australia’s development,” Burton said.
The most likely outcome would be yet another debate about the flag.
More immediate would be any impact on the Australian dollar if, as some fear, Scotland is denied the use of the British pound and has to develop its own currency.
AMP chief economist Shane Oliver says while the last thing Australia needs is a stronger dollar against any currency, any new Scottish unit would likely be weaker.
The upside for Australians who like a tipple would be the lowering of the price of scotch whisky.
“If the Scottish currency goes down in value, the price would go down,” Dr Oliver said.
That cheap scotch may have a nasty hangover: economists are fearful that a Scottish split might also encourage Catalonia to separate from Spain in November – triggering Spanish debt worries and casting a shadow over the stability of the Euro.
Dr Oliver said a vote for independence would leave Scotland worse off, thanks to higher national debt and declining income from its North Sea oilfields.
“A no vote makes sense,” he said.
“But of course this is about more than economics.”
Australia’s peak Scottish community body, the Scottish Australian Heritage Council, is remaining neutral on the vote.
SAHC president Malcolm Buchanan said his organisation would support whatever decision Scotland made.
“Our membership is very much divided down the middle,” he said.
His personal feeling, however, is that the ‘No’ vote will win in the end.
Yes Scotland or better together?
* Referendum on September 18 asks “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
* Residents of Scotland aged 16 and over can vote
* Polls are too close to call but ‘Yes’ has gained support recently
* Scotland would retain the Queen as head of state, like Australia
* If the ‘Yes’ vote succeeds, Scotland would become independent in 2016